Stories tagged 2012

Physics in action

by Liza on Jan. 12th, 2012

Get out there, if you can, and watch skaters take on the insane Red Bull Crashed Ice course here in downtown St. Paul. It's a great place to watch all sorts of physics in action. And bundle up. Winter's back, suddenly, and the laws of thermodynamics apply to you, too.

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Yeah, that's the future looking back at you
Yeah, that's the future looking back at youCourtesy GeminoidDK
Uh oh. The future is trying to break down our doors again, and it's using its favorite tool.

No, not lasers—robots! Filthy robots. Robots, who steal our jobs and our women (or our men, whichever makes you angrier). Robots, who get more advanced with each passing year, until one day, as sure as the sunrise, they will go Skynet all over us. They will take everything that was ours. They will take our jobs, our mortgages, our more demanding pets, our horticultural chores, and humans will be relegated to a million lifetimes of lying on beaches and surviving off the food that robots cook but cannot eat. The end of history. As the man said, "That's it, man! Game over, man, game over!"

We humans have a few years left as the top dogs, but certainly not many. As you can see in the video below, robots have already advanced to the point where they can do many of the things babies can—smile, blink, twitch, look stupid—and at least one thing babies can't do: grow beards.

Game over, man, game over.

Nov
21
2009

Have you notice that this year is a bit different than these past few years? There is climate changes and I have found out that there is many places that have unusual weather going on. To find out what kind of weather is happening at other people's location I posted up a question on answers.yahoo.com (http://answers.yahoo.com/question/index;_ylt=Ai6ehEHIOirNwIoaUPUQaEAazKI...) to see if the weather is really a sign or a warning of 2012. Downtown St. Paul: Downtown St. Paul
Downtown St. Paul: Downtown St. PaulCourtesy Della Xiong
For an example. In Minnesota, on Spring there wasn't as much rain as it usually did every year. September was the month that has the most rain. It seems as if September was Spring instead of Fall. And going towards October their were a couple days that have snowed, it was unexpected. It's like the weather shifted a month forward. So for me the cause of 2012 could be the weather, but I wasn't sure about it so I ask another question "Is the changing of the weather a sign of 2012? on answers.yahoo.com to get peoples opinion. (http://answers.yahoo.com/question/index;_ylt=Agak5C7_ZvFnrKhAwJySvp0azKI...) The answer that I get was no. Most of them said the changing weather is just a symptoms of global warming and climate changes that is caused by human and this made me think that they could be right about it. So what is your opinion? And what do you think of the weather? Do you think the weather has anything to do with 2012?

Nov
16
2009

Calakmul: I'm not sure if this is the spaceport or the Institute for Marketable Prophesies.
Calakmul: I'm not sure if this is the spaceport or the Institute for Marketable Prophesies.Courtesy J&P Voelkel
The ancient Maya: keepers of arcane knowledge, masters of the celestial spheres, 7th century astronauts… prophesiers of DOOM!

Yes, how the Maya knew what they knew remains a mystery to the arrogant forces of modern “science,” but we know that what they knew was totally awesome and sinister. Because, like, they carved it in stone and painted it on walls, and we all know that anything carved or painted on a wall is pretty much a sure thing. That’s how I know that for a good time I will call 555-5646, and why I’m certain that one day this will surely come to pass. And it’s why I’m sure that the world will end in 2012.

I mean, sure, there are people who still follow many of the traditions of their Mayan ancestors, and they say that 2012 doomsday predictions are nonsense, and that they’re based on the willful misinterpretations of another culture’s beliefs and calendar system, but… those people are obviously ignoring the wisdom of the ancients. You know, the wisdom of the ancients?

Recently excavated murals at the Mayan site of Calakmul are further enhancing our vision of these ancient, mystical people. The colorful murals, preserved on the covered wall of a built-over structure (the Maya sometimes added layers to older pyramids, creating a larger structure with a new face) apparently depict scenes of everyday Mayan life. It’s a unique discovery, because most of the imagery archaeologists uncover shows much grander stuff—royalty, and scenes from mythology. But this one just seems to show normal Mayan people doing normal stuff.

Of course, the above statement has to be understood within the context of the popular understanding of the Maya. I mean, “normal stuff”? What’s normal for people who flew around in spaceships, predicting the end of the world?

Let’s take a look, hmm?

This part of the mural, at first glance, seems to show a man in a wide, sombrero-like hat dishing out ul, a traditional maize gruel, to another man, who is drinking it. Obviously things aren’t so simple as this. The wide hat? It’s no hat. That man is wearing a satellite dish, so that he can stay in contact with teams of Mayan astronaut-priests, as they divine the future from high orbit. And the drinking guy—yes, he’s drinking, but it’s not corn gruel. He’s drinking magic potion. The mural does have a hieroglyphic caption that says “maize-gruel person,” but that must be a type. The lords of destiny don’t eat. And they especially don’t eat corn.

Here, we see the color version of the above image, as well as several other scenes of ancient Mayan life, including a man labeled “tobacco person,” who is holding a vessel full of what may be tobacco, or possibly Tobacco-brand ancient Mayan rocket fuel. There’s also the woman labeled “clay vessel person,” who may be holding a stack of clay vessels, or perhaps a stack of crystal balls, still in their brown paper wrappers. The murals also seem to show a woman making tamales, and a man eating them. But that’s just one interpretation. Another way to look at it might be, like, she’s making little pieces of the future. And he’s eating them. He could be eating the 2012 piece right there. The expression on his face may hold key information for us.

It just shows to go you. Some people are going to look at this and think, “Hey, look, normal ancient Maya people doing normal stuff and wearing normal clothes. What a fascinating glimpse into the lives of a seldom-depicted portion of a long-passed society.” And they’re free to think this way, but they’ll have no excuse for acting all surprised in three years.

Wanna rake in the big bucks? Become a scientist, fundamentally change the way we understand the universe, and you, too, could be laughing all the way to the bank.

Oct
15
2008

I have been hearing for the past few years that the universe in the next like 3 years will come to an end i really don't know what to think about that becuase one minute im thinking they are just trying to scare people but what will be the point of that and another side of me is saying i think it's true becuase it all adds up people are taking this really serious i mean writting books on it saying that the predictions add up and the world is coming to a end in either fire or water hmmm idk maybe i should do more research!!!

Apr
23
2008

The British Crystal Skull: Look--you can just see the flying saucer.
The British Crystal Skull: Look--you can just see the flying saucer.Courtesy seriykotik1970
First thing’s first: I’m not sure I can recommend that you see the new Indiana Jones movie. Have I seen it? As a matter of fact, I haven’t. Am I up on Hollywood buzz? Possibly, but only because I’m not sure what “Hollywood buzz” is exactly. I’m certainly not up on anything Indiana Jones 4 related.

This is a science blog, so is my issue with the archaeology? Is it bad archaeology? Absolutely it’s bad archaeology (more on that in a moment), but no, that’s not it. As it happens, I love bad archaeology most of all.

No, here’s why I don’t think you should see the new Indiana Jones: dude’s old.

Consider this: Do any of you remember seeing the “Young Indiana Jones” tv series? Remember how it ironically featured the occasional old Indiana Jones? Was that fun seeing Indy as a staggering octogenarian? Answer: no, not fun. Don’t believe me? See for yourselves. Guy’s old. How are you supposed to punch Nazis and outrun boulders like that? Also—a side note—couldn’t he save a bunch of money if he just bought monocles?

No, Indiana Jones 4 is just the prequel to old Indiana Jones. It’s going to be all about arthritis and staying regular. If I wanted to see a movie about “I’m too old for this spit,” I’d watch the Lethal Weapon trilogy, and maybe Lethal Weapon 4. In fact, maybe I will watch the Lethal Weapon trilogy (but not Lethal Weapon 4) tonight. But only for detective Martin Riggs, not for the gray hair and male girdle jokes.

Wait a second. Did I say that this was a science blog? I did—here’s the citation “This is a science blog.” So onto something like science!

Indiana Jones is all about bad archaeology. I’ll say again, however, that bad archaeology is totally fun, but it shouldn’t be confused with real archaeology. Did you ever notice how pretty much every site Indy visits, he destroys? The temple of the Hovitos, the Well of Souls, the Thuggee mine and shrine to Kali, the catacombs under Venice, the resting place of the grail in the Canyon of the Crescent Moon? All crush, collapsed, burned, or flooded.

To be clear, archaeological excavation constitutes, in many respects, the destruction of the site itself. It’s like dissecting a frog—it never works out well for the frog itself, but you can learn a lot about him by doing it. And archaeology is done very slowly. Notes and drawings are made, samples are taken, and it’s all followed up by hundreds of hours in a lab, looking at everything again. Very rarely does the destruction of a site involve sprinting through an ancient temple, clutching a creepy fertility idol.

Not only that, but recent studies take issue with the authenticity of the upcoming film’s subject, namely a certain crystal skull. Or crystal skulls.

Crystal skulls pop up now and again in archaeology, or at least in the antiquities trade. And there are about a dozen of them, in particular, that have been the subject of considerable interest and skepticism. In the late 19th century, a handful of crystal skulls turned up on the antiquities scene, reputedly coming from Aztec/Olmec/Toltec/Maya temples (distinct Central American cultures, but, for the purposes of modern-day occult fixations, probably interchangeable). The smaller of the skulls are generally agreed to be large beads, probably used in Mexican catholic practice at one point. On the other hand, the larger skulls, ranging a couple of inches on either side of life size, are magic.

That’s right, the skulls, carved of solid quartz, and scattered across the world in museums and the hands of private collectors, are freakin’ magic. Used properly, they can grant health and luck to the bearer, and death to his or her enemies. Also, UFO’s—held at a certain angle, in a certain light, it is said that the crystal depths of the skulls will reveal the unmistakable image of a flying saucer. Because we all know what a flying saucer looks like so well, we would know if we were being shown a fake. And—most importantly—some say that the 12 skulls (and a missing 13th skull) must be united before the end of the Mayan calendar (12/21/2012), or the Earth will fly off its axis. You totally know that this would suck, so start skull questing.

Anyway, all this stands to reason, right? You’ve got your skulls, your crystal skulls. You’ve got you’re mysterious, vanished people (who, you know, aren’t actually gone). Logically there are going to be some magical powers in there.

E. Boban: delving into the dark arts. At his knick-knack stand.
E. Boban: delving into the dark arts. At his knick-knack stand.Courtesy Public domain
Not so, say scientists across Europe. The authenticity of the skulls has been under question for some time, with jewelers and museum archaeologists pointing out that they were detailed with a jeweler’s drill, and polished by a wheeled machine. The wheel thing is problematic, seeing as how the Mayans never did a whole lot with the wheel, at least not mechanically. The obvious answer is that aliens gave the skulls to the Mayans (or Aztecs, or Olmecs, or Teotihuacán, take your pick), and aliens are, of course, swimming in diamond drills and wheels. Unafraid of forces they could never hope to understand, though, researchers from the French national museum service have subjected the “Paris Skull” to particle induced x-ray emission and Raman spectroscopy. And what did those spoil sports find? In addition to the clear evidence of modern tools being used to shape the skull, the quartz it’s made of comes from the Alps, not Central America. The crystal skull belonging to the British Museum is made of Brazilian quartz, although it likewise sports modern tool makes, and the Mayans aren’t known to have had any cultural connections to Brazil. Specifically, both skulls are thought to have come from a village in Southern Germany that specialized in carving just that sort of thing for crucifix bases, which might explain the identical holes on the top and bottom of the French skull. What’s more, there’s documentation that most of the skulls out there came from a Eugene Boban, a dealer of pre-Columbian artifacts, known to have slipped a few fakes in now and again.

Another skull, the “Skull of Doom,” turned up a little later than the other crystal skulls. It was supposedly dug from a temple in Belize by a British explorer, who claimed that it was at least 3,600 years old, and “used by the High Priest of the Maya when performing esoteric rites. It is said that, when he willed death with the help of the skull, death invariably followed.” The power of the Skull of Doom has apparently diminished to reports of emitting blue light, and causing the deaths of computer hard drives. And it’s also probably a fake. Or a fake of a fake even—it was probably bought by the explorer for 400 pounds from Sotheby’s in 1943.

Don’t let all this keep you from your skull quest, though. They are skulls made of crystal, after all. What more evidence do you need for their ability to keep us from spinning hopelessly into outer space in 2012?

Zombies - not so impossible?: Image courtesy lebovox via Flickr.
Zombies - not so impossible?: Image courtesy lebovox via Flickr.
Okay, I'll grant that the scientific research conducted by Cracked magazine may not be the most top notch stuff, they do have links to some pretty cool articles that have actual science in them in this totally awesome article about how zombies could actually happen. I love zombies and zombie stories. And Halloween. This article is perfect joy for me. Though readers beware, they do use some off color language occasionally.

UPDATE MARCH 2011: Popular Science answers the question: Could Scientists Really Create a Zombie Apocalypse Virus?

Zombie Update
Ahoy, Buzzketeers, ahoy and aloha. JGordon here.

It’s a zombie heavy time of year. We’re well into the season of Halloweeny, zombie-themed events are happening left and right (apparently zombies are also into getting drunk?), and dozens of zombie apocalypse scenarios are shambling through your heads like so many reanimated corpses. And that’s all great, but I’m updating this post to tell you two things. Briefly:

1) You’re wrong. Y’all are dead.
2) This is a science blog, so lets do our best to rein it in a little. In a sciencey way, you know?

Ok, to my first point—come on, folks, really? A gun shop? Go to a gun shop? That’s the plan? Let’s think about this. What’s more dangerous, a staggering, slack-jawed zombie, or a desperate scared person, who will do anything to get/keep a firearm? Probably the crazy person with the gun. Clearly you aren’t the only person to think, “gun store,” so… you want to head to the place where there will be lots of freaked-out people and relatively few guns? Hmm. You’ll have to tell me about it later, because I think I’ll skip that.

Or a zombie-plow? It’s a delightful thought, but, I dunno… I’ve never actually had to drive plow through a crowd of un-feeling undead, but I wonder how long you could go before that plan fell through. Not to get too morbid, but that stuff is going to get stuck under your car, and some point you’re going to have to deal with it. Plows are for snow, not for hundreds of bony, 160-pound zombies.

Let’s separate ourselves from the future lunchmeat by being a little original. Which brings me to my second point: science, dudes, science!

We’re walking on thin ice already, what with this being a science blog, and zombies not being very sciencey. But perhaps we can use critical thought and scientific reasoning to effectively plan for the coming zombie apocalypse. Think outside the box here, because everyone inside the box is going to get eaten. (And I consider guns to be very much inside the box.)

We can still post zombie plans here, but only if they show a little more creativity and careful reasoning. Here are some things to think about:

Are you really going to pull off that headshot when the pressure is on? Have you ever considered how hard it might be to destroy the brain of a zombie with your old Louisville Slugger? Maybe you’re not the fighting type. (I’m not.) Or maybe you can fight zombies until the cows come home, but what about everyone else in your group? So how are you going to keep yourself alive? Invest some thought into zombie evasion. What techniques could you use to avoid inviting the attention of the hungry dead? Might there be a way to avoid their detection all together? Do zombies find you through sight? Or smell? Do they hear you? How would you disguise yourself, and how would you test out your methods without getting eaten?

Unfortunately, humanity doesn’t have a lot of real-world experience with zombie attack. But maybe we could find a useful analogy in nature. How do other organisms cope with the constant threat of being eaten? What survival techniques have kept them alive? How could we mimic them, or adapt them to the zombie threat?

And what about the endgame? Do you simply run from empty gun store to empty gun store until your luck or your food runs out? If you fortify an area, making it zombie proof (and how would you do that, exactly?), what could you do to ensure that you had food, water, and power for years to come? Or do you want to save the world? How are you going to figure out what’s causing the zombie infection? How are you going to cure it? If most of the world is infect… can it be cured? Or must it be quarantined?

There’s a lot of things to consider here, and “my dad has a gun” isn’t one of them.

So, people, lets use our brains before the zombies do. (As it were.) How are science and scientific knowledge going to get you through the zompocalypse?
Only science will save us from the zombie apocalypse! And only science will save your comment from being deleted. Let's see some zombie science!

**Update: Huge new zombie developments! Zombie problem solved forever?! See this comment for references!**